Who is at risk for cervical cancer?

Certain factors can make one woman more likely to get cervical cancer than another one. These are called risk factors. Risk factors for cervical cancer are listed below.

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Some of the HPVs put women at higher risk for cervical cancer. These viruses can be transmitted by sexual contact. HPV infection is the major risk factor for cervical cancer.
  • Smoking. A woman who smokes has a higher chance of getting cervical cancer.
  • Weak immune systems. Women who have the virus HIV, which causes AIDS, have a greater risk of getting cervical cancer. This is because HIV makes the immune system weaker, so the body will not effectively clear the HPV infection.
  • Family or personal history of cervical cancer. If your mother or sister has had this cancer—or you've had it before yourself—your risk is higher than a woman without this history.
  • Chlamydia infection. This is a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection that may increase your risk of developing cervical cancer.
  • Diet. A diet low in fruits and vegetables, as well as obesity, may increase the risk for cervical cancer.
  • Oral contraceptives. A woman who has taken oral contraceptives for a long time may have a higher risk.
  • Many pregnancies. A woman who has had many full-term pregnancies may be at greater risk.
  • DES. If a woman's mother took the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) when she was pregnant, she has a greater chance of getting cervical cancer.
  • Socioeconomic status. Many women with low incomes don't have access to healthcare. This may prevent regular screenings and increase their risk of cervical cancer.